WOODLAND HILLS, Utah County — The Bald Mountain Fire and the nearby Pole Creek Fire burned more than 100,000 acres combined. Now that burn scar is putting Elk Ridge and Woodland Hills residents at risk for flooding.

Residents along Loafer Canyon Road are worried that the fire-scarred mountainside above won't hold the water from Tuesday's forecasted rainstorm and turn their street into a river of mud and debris.

The Utah Department of Transportation is putting concrete barriers in Elk Ridge in the hopes of diverting any mudflow that may come off of the mountain and keep them away from homes.

Rylee Burton, left, and Lauren Burton help fill sandbags on Monday, Oct. 1, 2018, in preparation for possible flooding when upcoming storms rain on areas burned by the Bald Mountain Fire.
Rylee Burton, left, and Lauren Burton help fill sandbags on Monday, Oct. 1, 2018, in preparation for possible flooding when upcoming storms rain on areas burned by the Bald Mountain Fire. | Qiling Wang, Deseret News

Gov. Gary Herbert met with local officials Monday afternoon, coordinating state resources including the Utah National Guard to prepare for any flooding from the burn scar, particularly in Woodland Hills and Elk Ridge.

"We are preparing for the worst, hoping for the best," Herbert said.

Approximately 200 soldiers with the Utah National Guard's 204th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade and 300th Military Intelligence Brigade will assist in flood mitigation efforts in Utah County.

Herbert also wanted to make sure residents are on alert 24/7 if mud begins to flow.

"Making sure that the local people here are aware they may have to evacuate again because of this flash flooding and debris that can come into their housing areas. That's a concern for us. Certainly, we want to protect life first and limb, and then property," he said.

And not only are homes in danger but critical infrastructure that could be impacted by runoff from the mountainside.

"The concerns of watersheds, water systems, sewer systems, housing structures, roads. So this is all hands on deck for Chapter 2, see what we can do to mitigate this," Herbert said.

Megan Bowman was one of many filling sandbags Monday, just in case, the storm brings flooding.

"The fire has got everyone worried and now, all of a sudden, big rain is supposed to hit," Bowman said.

Residents in Payson are also building a line of defense in case debris flows reach their community.

Residents of Elk Ridge come together to stage sandbags on Monday, Oct. 1, 2018, in preparation for possible flooding when upcoming storms rain on areas burned by the Bald Mountain Fire.
Residents of Elk Ridge come together to stage sandbags on Monday, Oct. 1, 2018, in preparation for possible flooding when upcoming storms rain on areas burned by the Bald Mountain Fire. | Qiling Wang, Deseret News

Sandbags that were filled by hundreds of volunteers over the weekend and again on Monday were placed in potentially vulnerable areas as many residents watch the skies and worry that flooding could be worse than the fire.

"We pre-stage some of those bags where we feel like they are needed," said Payson Mayor Bill Wright. "We've also pre-staged some machinery, a backhoe, trackhoes, just in case we need them."

Mike Morris and his family of 10 were evacuated for the fire, just like everyone else in town.

"My house is two blocks away from the mountain. I’m pretty close. Yeah, I was worried,” Morris said. “When we left I told the kids, ‘All right say goodbye. This is it.’”

On Sunday, he was at the Woodland Hills fire station with his boys shoveling, tying and hauling sandbags. Organizers say they filled close to 15,000 bags.

“Been kind of a trip. Burned down your mountain, now you’re worried about flooding and then we’re going to worry about avalanches later,” Morris said.

Rebecca Black, left, Lexi Joghson, Maddie Meuter, and Bailey Robinson help load sandbags into a truck in Woodland Hills on Monday, Oct. 1, 2018.
Rebecca Black, left, Lexi Joghson, Maddie Meuter, and Bailey Robinson help load sandbags into a truck in Woodland Hills on Monday, Oct. 1, 2018. | Qiling Wang, Deseret News

His home is one of about 400 in Woodland Hills and volunteers plan to make sure every single one of them is protected from potential flooding and mudslides. There were an estimated 2,000 people Sunday, pitching in to save homes.

For those whose homes are damaged by flooding, they can buy flood insurance without having the 30-day waiting period.

Monday, Kathy Holder, state floodplain manager for Utah Emergency Management, said those residents can get coverage today. "When there comes a fire off of federal land where the soils have become hydrophobic like they are now, and the people downstream or down mountain are more likely to flood, then that 30-day waiting period can be waived for them,” she said.

It has to be through NFIP insurance, she added, which is a program backed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Other insurances are private, so the 30-day waiting period may not be waived.

“Those individuals should go buy their flood insurance today," Holder advised. "They can go get their flood insurance, if that flood comes off of that burn scar, then that 30-day waiting period can be waived."

For more information on the insurance and how to contact an agent, go to Floodsmart.gov.

"Definitely keeping our fingers crossed," Wright said. "We can't predict what Mother Nature is going to do, at least to any degree of certainty, but we are hoping we can be prepared for whatever."

Contributing: Viviane Vo-Duc